A health minister said the NHS needs to be better prepared for the budget impact of new medicines such as the oral drug for Hepatitis C, and admitted “we didn’t get it right”.

In an interview with HSJ, Lord O’Shaughnessy spoke of the widely criticised decision by NHS England to restrict access to new drugs that were approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2015. The drugs could effectively eliminate Hepatitis C.

Due to their budget impact, the national commissioner restricted access to 10,000 patients in 2016-17, and 12,500 in 2017-18. An estimated 80,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease.

The Conservative peer said: “I think everyone would agree we didn’t get it right when the new Hep C drugs came through which allowed for that [condition] to be effectively cured.

“We weren’t really prepared for it even though the evidence for the treatment had been published in academic papers many years before”.

He said when “transformative products” come along, “you do want to make sure that everyone is ready to adopt them, that the service can deliver them and that we have found a way to afford them”.

He said a new accelerated access pathway will allow for “long term horizon scanning” to ensure the NHS is better prepared for new “transformative innovation”, saying this would allow the NHS to bring forward licensing and the NICE approval process for some medicines.

In January, NHSE committed to eliminating Hepatitis C in England by 2025, which is expected to make it the first country to do so, while urging the pharmaceutical industry to “work with them to provide best value for money”.

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